Teacher-Researcher Development? Unpacking the Understandings and Approaches in Initial Teacher Education in Kosovo

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Published: 
2020

Source: Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, Vol 10 No 3.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present study examines student teachers’ and teacher educators’ understandings of and approaches to teacher-researcher development in initial teacher education (ITE) within the research-based teacher education movement.
Employing qualitative methods research design, ITE in Kosovo was examined using programme documents, teacher educators’ perceptions and student teachers’ perceptions.
The study addressed the following research questions:
(1) How is the meaning and purpose of the teacher-researcher concept understood within initial teacher education?
(2) How does initial teacher education approach the development of teacher-researchers?
(3) What kinds of factors can explain conflicting understandings and approaches in teacher-researcher development?

Method

Sampling, instruments and procedure
The study used a qualitative method approach (Creswell, 2014) and was conducted in two public initial teacher education institutions in Kosovo during the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 academic years.
The selected institutions represent one larger and one smaller institution.
 

Programme documents
The study programmes (n = 5) were chosen with a purposive sampling strategy (Creswell, 2014).
Maximum variation sampling was used to identify programmes that represent different levels (BA and MA) and focuses (pedagogy-oriented and subject didactics-oriented) of teacher education.
Programme documents were selected
a) to identify the number of courses related to research,
b) to explore how research is integrated into different courses and programmes, and
c) to investigate course descriptions/requirements of students’ learning outcomes that included a research element or explicitly planned teacher-researcher development.

Open questionnaire
The student teachers (n = 270) voluntarily responded to an open questionnaire (Creswell, 2014).
The questionnaire was shared with all of the student teachers (n = 410) in the selected programmes, and 65.85% (n = 270) of them participated.
All of the students were instructed to respond in depth to each question, i.e., with at least 150 words per question.

Semi-structured interviews
The teacher educators (N = 15) were selected with a purposive sampling strategy (Creswell, 2014).
The responses were used to examine the perspectives of teacher educator understandings and approaches regarding teacher-researcher development.

Results and discussion
The research found that the understanding of a research-based orientation and how it is approached within initial teacher education relates to the teacher educator’s practice and the programme’s values and goals. The study revealed important context-related tensions and how they manifest in teacher-researcher development.
Contextual relevance in teacher-researcher development is discussed in terms of four clustered understandings and approaches under Healey and Jenkins’s (2009) framework.
First, the results show that limited and formal learning about education research through knowledge transmission emerged as the main teacher development approach.
Teachers do not develop into researchers due to an understanding of research in terms of “scientific research” task complexity.
The results of the present study indicate that many teacher educators and courses continue to strongly support a disciplinary and knowledge-based understanding of teacher-researcher development.
The practical implication of these results is that prospective teachers do not link research with teaching practice.
Second, the results reveal that content knowledge of research techniques and thesis work are the main components of teacher-researcher development.
The researcher’s findings show that research skills development is approached in isolation, limited to a research methods course.
Consequently, their results differ from Toom et al. (2010) in suggesting that teacher-researcher development is a multifaceted process organised throughout the programme.
The consequence of her findings in practice indicates that teacher-researcher development is equivalent to teacher technical research skills.
Third, the results support the idea that student teachers develop reflective skills and attitudes towards education problems concerning their future practice.
The author’s finding corresponds to that of Afdal and Spernes (2018) in arguing for the research nature of reflective practice.
The interpretation of their results infers that in a limited segment, Kosovo ITE has broadened teacher-researcher development in terms of teacher reflective practice.
Fourth, the results demonstrate that teacher-researchers develop though different research-oriented activities in various courses within programmes.
The results indicate that teacher-researcher development necessitates a multifaceted and continuous approach.
The findings support the view of teacher-researcher development as not limited to developing student teacher research skills but including a wide range of teacher-research roles and attitudes, such as critical thinking and reflection, continuous teacher growth and research engagement for classroom and school improvement, among others.
As suggested by Niemi and Nevgi (2014), being a teacher-researcher requires a much broader skillset than technical research skills alone.
However, the major results in the Kosovo context show that technical research skills development remains the only segment of the “larger pie” of teacher-researcher development.
This narrow approach stems from a history of isolating research in one methods course, emphasising research content knowledge transmission in which students act as an audience, the development of theoretical research skills, and the perceptions of teacher educators and student teachers regarding the undertaking of thesis projects as a formality.
This narrow conceptualisation is primarily due to inconsistent understandings and approaches, as well as a lack of commitment between programmes’ goals and values and teacher educators’ practice, resulting in a fragmented context of teacher-researcher development.
Hence, the present study aims to highlight the importance of examining contextual variables, i.e., how teacher-researcher development is understood and approached, in order to ensure sustainable and context-based teacher-researcher development.
In conclusion, the author writes that teacher-researcher development should be understood as a holistic and complex process within ITE.
There is a need to reconceptualise teacher-researcher development beyond technical research skills and research methods courses.
Programmes and teacher educators should share a common understanding and commit to multifaceted and continuous teacher-researcher development.
Teacher-researcher development must be approached in terms of the work realities of the future teacher and school context improvements, in order to ease student teachers into research activities and influence a change in mindset for dynamic future teacher-researcher engagement (see also: Niemi & Nevgi, 2014).
Research-based teacher education should therefore be a guiding framework for teacher-researcher development in order to improve the quality of initial teacher education.

References
Afdal, H. W., & Spernes, K. (2018). Designing and redesigning research-based teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 74, 215–228. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0742051X17314476?...
Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. SAGE Publication
Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2009). Developing undergraduate research and inquiry. Higher Education Academy.
Niemi, H., & Nevgi, A. (2014). Research studies and active learning promoting professional competences in Finnish teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 43, 131–142. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0742051X14000821
Toom, A., Kynäslahti, H., Krokfors, L., Jyrhämä, R., Byman, R., Stenberg, K., Maaranen, K., Kansanen, P. (2010). Experiences of a research-based approach to teacher education: Suggestions for future policies. European Journal of Education, 45(2), 331–344. 

Updated: Dec. 13, 2020
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